PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistani officials said Saturday that a top Taliban leader had probably been killed in an airstrike, dealing another blow to a militant group that fighters say has been leaderless since January.

Maulvi Faqir Mohammed, an al-Qaida-linked commander of the Pakistani Taliban, was almost certainly among a large group of insurgents killed Friday in a Pakistani helicopter gunship attack in the Mohmand region of the unruly tribal areas. Mohammed was the top leader in another tribal area and a deputy of the broader Taliban organization in Pakistan.

Analysts said Mohammed’s death, coming amid stepped-up military operations and U.S. drone strikes, would knock the Pakistani Taliban further back toward the patchwork of local insurgencies that characterized it before it morphed into a lethal umbrella group. Mohammed had previously been considered a candidate to lead the national organization.

“They’re shell-shocked,” Aftab Sherpao, a former Pakistani interior minister, said of the Taliban.

A scattered Pakistani Taliban could help U.S.-led efforts to battle Afghan militants by disrupting their sanctuary in Pakistan’s border regions.

The Pakistani Taliban’s most recent leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, is believed to have been killed or incapacitated in a January drone strike, and the campaign of suicide bombings he oversaw has tapered off. He took the helm after another missile fired by an unmanned U.S. aircraft killed the former leader, Baitullah Mehsud.

Analysts caution that the emer- gence of a new leader could recharge the movement. But no one has claimed Mehsud’s place.


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